Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When a president fails to lead

With this president, it was clear that we were never going to have some grand deal to reduce the federal debt. He is just not interested. This became especially clear from his response to his own deficit-reducing commission. They worked hard and in a bipartisan manner and came up with a viable plan that both Republicans and Democrats had signed on to. And he did....absolutely nothing with it. Even the Democratic leader of the commission was surprised at the President's inaction. First they acknowledge the dreadful situation that we're in because of the mandatory spending that we're committed to be paying. Here is Erskine Bowles on the crisis we're facing.
The economics is very clear. The politics, very difficult. I'll give you one little simple arithmetic example. If you take 100% of the revenue that came into the country last year, every single dime of it was consumed by our mandatory spending and interest on the debt. Mandatory spending in English is basically the entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. That means every single dollar we spent last year on these two wars, on national defense, homeland security, education, infrastructure, high value-added research—every single dollar was borrowed, and half of it was borrowed from foreign countries.

That's a formula for failure in anybody's book.

And this is not a problem that we can solely grow our way out of. You could have double-digit growth for decades and not solve this problem. It's not a problem that we can solely tax our way out of. And we can't simply cut our way out of it.
So they devised a plan to cut spending. It also increased revenue. It was a serious, bipartisan proposal. It was the President's own commission. But he isn't interested in solutions, but in demagoguing the issue to ride to reelection so he can continue to increase the size of government and the level of spending. Erskine Bowles, who was chief of staff for Bill Clinton was flabbergasted at the lack of support or response from Obama.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Your presidential commission delivered your report in December. How surprised were you that your commission gave the president tremendous coverage to do something, and it wasn't even mentioned in the State of the Union?

MR. BOWLES: If you think you were surprised, you should have looked at us. I negotiated the budget for President Clinton. And every investment banker will tell you the key to success is knowing your client and defining success up front. So, I knew what success was on his part, and I could go in there and negotiate the deal.

I did not know President Obama, and neither did Alan. So, we spent a tremendous amount of time with him and his economic team up front defining success. And we negotiated a deal that got a majority of Republicans to vote for it, so he had plenty of cover on the other side. It also exceeded every single one of the goals that he had given us.

I fully expected them to grab hold of this. If it had been President Clinton, he would have said, "God, I created this, this is wonderful. It was all my idea."

So we were really surprised. My belief is that most of the members of the economic team strongly supported it. Like every White House, there's a small cabal of people that surround the president that he trusts and works with, and I believe it was those Chicago guys, the political team that convinced him that it would be smarter for him to wait and let Paul Ryan go first, and then he would look like the sensible guy in the game.

We then expected, before the State of the Union, that when he did the stimulus, that that would be a great time to say not only, look, we're going to do this to get the economy moving forward, but we have to do it within the context of long-term fiscal reform and responsibility. And he didn't.

If you remember the State of the Union, he talked about the need for this country to invest in education and infrastructure and high-value-added research to be able to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. And he's right about that. But he left off a part, that we have to do it in a fiscally responsible way. We live in a world of limited resources, and limited resources mean choices and priorities.

MR. SIMPSON: The terrible irony is the mandatory programs are eating a hole through those programs. They are on automatic pilot. They can't be stopped. Every day that they get deeper in their train wreck, it takes it out of the things that President Obama's speaking of. Those things will disappear. They will be squeezed out.
Obama doesn't care. He just doesn't care. That is why he scheduled an Asian trip so he could be out of town as the super committee spluttered to its ignominious end. He never cared whether they succeeded or not. He never got involved and tried to lead the congressional leaders to finding a solution. Jennifer Rubin links to this Robert Samuelson column with its sorry verdict on our AWOL president. Samuelson cuts through the Democratic foggery to point out that the Republicans on the committee came through with a serious revenue increase proposal.
Contrary to much press coverage, the committee’s Republicans opened the door to compromise by abandoning — as they should have — opposition to tax increases. Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania proposed a tax “reform” that would raise income taxes by $250 billion over a decade. First, he would impose across-the-board reductions of most itemized deductions and use the resulting revenue gains to cut all tax rates. Next, he would adjust the rates for the top two brackets so that they’d be high enough to produce the $250 billion. All the tax increase would fall on people in the top brackets.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin called Toomey’s proposal a “breakthrough.” With good reason: It came from a “no new taxes, over my dead body” Republican who had signed Grover Norquist’s pledge against any tax increases. But the details of Toomey’s plan are murky, and many Democrats claim that it would cut taxes for the rich. Democrats also didn’t respond with an equal concession: a willingness to deal with Social Security and Medicare.
That's where the cuts have to come. The mandatory spending is eating up all our spending. If we don't cut entitlements, we will be lost. That's the whole ball game. But Obama just doesn't care. He refuses to talk about this cataclysmic fiscal crisis that we've promised ourselves.
Only President Obama can start such a debate. He has the bully pulpit, but he hasn’t used it. Here’s an exchange between ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper and the president, at a July 15 news conference, that captures Obama’s calculated obscurity.

Tapper: “In the interest of transparency, leadership and also showing the American people that you have been negotiating (with Republicans) in good faith, can you tell us one structural reform that you are willing to make to one of these entitlement programs that would have a major effect on the deficit? Would you be willing to raise the retirement age? Would you be willing to means test Social Security or Medicare?”

Obama: “We’ve said that we are willing to look at all these approaches. I’ve laid out some criteria in terms of what would be acceptable. So, for example, I’ve said very clearly that we should make sure that current beneficiaries as much as possible are not affected. But we should look at what can we do in the out-years, so that over time some of these programs are more sustainable. I’ve said that means testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself, if — I’m going to be turning 50 in a week. So I’m starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility. (Laughter.) Yes, I’m going to get my AARP card soon — and the discounts. But you can envision a situation where for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate.”

Noncommittal gibberish. There is no leadership from the nation’s “leader.” Space precludes running all his rambling response; the excerpt above was about half. Tapper followed up.

Tapper: “And the retirement age?”

Obama: “I’m not going to get into specifics.”

Well, there you have it. The president won’t talk specifics, but government consists of specifics. The reason we cannot have a large budget deal is that Americans haven’t been prepared for one. The president hasn’t educated them, and so they can’t support what they don’t understand. Left or right, there are no comfortable positions. No one relishes curbing Social Security or Medicare benefits. But without changes, taxes will go way up, the rest of government will shrink dramatically or huge deficits will persist.
This is why we will continue to be a downgraded nation - we have a president who refuses to acknowledge the fiscal situation we're in and refuses to lead. He just buried us in a deeper hole with Obamacare. His only solution is massive increases in taxes - but we can't get all the money we need from taxes on the wealthy. There just isn't enough money there. So we'll all have to pay. And then you can say good-by to economic growth and decreases in unemployment. That is the Obama vision for our country. It is a catastrophe that we have this man as our president when what we need is a true leader who approaches our fiscal reality with a seriousness and a sincere desire to reach a decision.

Just imagine an alternate universe in which Obama had actually wanted to address our fiscal catastrophe. He might have embraced the Bowles-Simpson commission solution and then spent the past year trying to enact that. He could have worked with Paul Ryan. He could have embraced the deal that John Boehner put on the table during the summer negotiations over the debt ceiling. Instead, at every juncture, he chose the opposite path away from leading to a bipartisan solution and resorted to partisan shots pretending that the Republicans refused to negotiate. That is not true, but what do the facts matter when there is demagoguing to be done?

Jennifer Rubin summarizes his pitch to voters:
And you see it now in the chorus of liberal pundits echoing the White House talking points. It’s the Republicans’ fault! The GOP only defends the rich. This is frankly lame, considering the president in three years hasn’t offered his own plan. And where was Obama in the first two years when the Democrats controlled everything?

The president will have virtually nothing to run on in 2012. ObamaCare may be ruled unconstitutional, and in any event, it isn’t popular. He hasn’t reformed the tax code or entitlements. The economy is still limping and unemployment will remain high for the foreseeable future. His entire argument to voters? The GOP is mean. I may have done nothing but the Republican nominee is worse. It is the most cynical approach to politics possible, one which will and should depress all those idealistic young (and old) voters who thought Obama would be better than all the other pols. In fact, he’s worse.
All the GOP need is someone who can make this argument. Obama has no answer besides finger-pointing even as he calls on Washington to have done with the games and finger-pointing. As always, he projects his own approach to politics onto his opponents. It might have worked when he was a blank slate on which people could write their own aspirations for Hope and Change. He's not a tabula rasa anymore. He's just an AWOL president whose only pledge to the American people is more of the same behavior that has increased our fiscal problems and stalled our economy. He is the very antithesis of a leader.

17 comments:

tfhr said...

"It is a catastrophe that we have this man as our president when what we need is a true leader who approaches our fiscal reality with a seriousness and a sincere desire to reach a decision." ~ Betsy


mark,

I agree with Betsy's comment above and I wanted to ask you why Obama isn't a "serious" leader. Is his "ground game" off? Is he a "fraud" or a "liar"? These are all terms you like to lob at Herman Cain's candidacy but what do you call a President that isn't "serious" about leading the nation as he was elected to do? A Progressive? Or just an opportunist that likes to vote "present" instead of taking a stand when it matters, like with the Keystone decision?

Betsy boils it down to the succinct point that all Obama has, in the absence of any actual accomplishments while in office, is to engage in a negative campaign designed to smear his opponents. He cannot defend his record and has no other alternative, which sounds exactly like your course of action when pressed to defend your politics.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark said...

I agree that Obama has failed to lead on this issue, and he should have been open to Simpson-Bowles.
Please don't insult yourself by pretending republicans were serious about negotiating. They have "prostituted" themselves out to Grover Norquist with their "no-tax pledge. Every repub presidential candidate has said he/she would refuse a deal with a 10:1 cuts:revenue ratio.
So, yes, Obama has failed to lead. Beyond disgraceful, the repubs are immoral on this issue.

No achievements?
Among other things, Obama very possibly pulled us back from a depression, he saved the car industry, passed "Obamacare", gave the kill order for OBL, helped get rid of Ghaddafi, got rid of DADT.
Just because you don't agree with those things, or can't stand that Obama succeeded where Bush failed, doesn't mean they are not accomplishments. They are accomplishments you don't like.
Just more evidence that your hatred for Obama trumps common sense.

tfhr said...

marke,

Looks like your first comment got deleted. Should've dumped the second one too.

ObamaCare is an unmitigated disaster, not an accomplishment. After already adding $4 TRILLION to the debt with his "stimulus" pay off package and other out of control spending, ObamaCare will increase debt even more dramatically. The so-called "mandate" aspect of ObamaCare is likely to be ruled unconstitutional and the Obama Administration has already conceded the CLASS Act failed because it was financially unsustainable and has withdrawn it with the rest soon to follow.

"Saved the car industry"? Really? I thought "To Big to Fail" was a bad thing but I guess that depends on who is union and who is not. If you want to argue that he saved the unions, I'll agree but even that is temporary. Obama ripped off share holders and squandered tax dollars to give unions our money. Have you bought your Chevy Volt yet? That was supposed to save GM. Nobody else is buying them either, not even the union leaders or their lawyers.

Now I am glad bin Laden got his just deserves and I am also glad that Gaddafi is dead. I'm not sure why you would think I wouldn't "agree" with those things but you are often garbled here, so I'll take it in stride. Unfortunately killing bin Laden does not mean you can abandon Afghanistan and Iraq and yet that is precisely what Obama is planning to do. Now tell me what is going to happen in Libya and please, by all means, outline the Obama foreign policy toward that country? What? There isn't a policy for Libya? There isn't a program in place to guide it in some transition toward democracy or at least moderation toward the West? Sounds like Obama is "AWOL" again, to use Betsy choice of terms.

DADT, now there is something to hang your hat on, right? Obama is so big on that achievement that he still WILL NOT endorse gay marriage. Why? Because it will cost him votes. So as the CinC, Obama jams a policy down the throats of the DoD and tells them to absorb all the problems and challenges that will come with it while purposely avoiding the political risk for himself. Real leadership. Real consistency. Obama says it's OK to be out and gay in the military but he won't even take the risk to endorse gay marriage. If a homosexual service member wants to get married and live on post, then what? Likewise, if that same service member is killed, what is the DoD to do about survivor benefits, particularly if there is a dispute between parents and a "spouse"? Great accomplishment, mark. Really.

So here's your list of Obama "accomplishments":

1. ObamaCare - DOA
2. Saved the UAW while GM and Chrysler founder
3. Killed two top tier terrorists. ( Good job but does that mean the rest have surrendered? )
4. Gay sailors but nobody get to catch the bouquet.

No mark, the war grinds on and will not stop by leaving Iraq and Afghanistan too soon. Healthcare costs are soaring and ObamaCare is not the answer - so say the American people. Only Ford, among the American manufacturers, is doing well and they didn't take the money.

Maybe you'd like to brag about his success with "green" energy but you'd have to talk around the Volt and Solyndra. I guess those union jobs are safe for the moment but what about the millions of other Americans that are out of work? With 9% unemployment nationwide and with particular areas and demographics well above 20%, I guess I know why you didn't list employment, or as Biden said, "...three letter word, J-O-B-S", as an accomplishment. Obama had complete control of both houses and chose to waste his time playing games with a healthcare scam that failed. He failed to get his priorities right and the country has suffered for it.

Obama needs a better list and a better defender than you to sell it, mark. But you know that and what I want to know is just what you think is going to change if he gets reelected.

tfhr said...

mark,

Just to reiterate, you should've dumped your second comment too because you claimed that I hate Obama. I do not. I don't like his politics because they are so terribly flawed and because he is failing to lead at a time when we need a real, serious President.

tfhr said...

mark,

Here's something else you can throw in the trash can from your second comment: The 10:1 figure.

Without seeing what would be cut and ACTUALLY have it cut, why commit to a tax increase? We've seen that in the past when Dems pledge to cut for a trade of tax increases. The taxes do increase but the cuts never happened. I've heard others compare it to Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown.

So in your book, mark, the fact that Republican candidates have learned from past experiences with Dems and do not want to make promises based on vague offerings, they are now "immoral". Wow. Does your spelling dictionary have definintions in it?

But at least we can agree that Obama has failed to lead. You and I can agree on that but why would you ever consider voting for him again? What is going to change?

mark said...

I've never voted for a president twice - Reagan and Clinton for their first terms, but I was too disgusted with them to vote for them again. I'd prefer not to vote for him again, but it will depend on how close NC is which candidate the repubs eventually put up.
Repubs have for years been lying about the benefits of lower tax rates and absurd tax loopholes. Just as you were duped into supporting the war in Iraq, you've been duped into be supporting cuts in programs for the poor (including veterans) for the sake of the wealthiest. That is immoral.
I don't mind the back and forth, tfhr, but you really humiliated yourself with your whiny screech about my use of the word "fraud" and plea for keeping an open mind as to whether Sandusky is a child molester. You might take a break and regroup.

mark said...

BTW, the deleted post wasn't mine. I guess you libeled me. No problem, I forgive you.

tfhr said...

mark,

When you call someone a fraud you should be able to back it up and you didn't. I called you on it and it's as simple as that. I also think The Constitution is pretty important and I am not in favor of denying Americans their right to its protection. You seem to be in favor of doing just that which is pretty awful.

In addition to smearing Cain as a "fraud", you say Cain isn't "serious" but then you support Obama despite the fact the he has run from the responsibilities of his job. Yours must be a very muddled mind to hold these opinions as both being valid.

So to recap: We got nothing from you comprising a list of accomplishments for Obama except for DADT and UBL. There is no evidence from you to suggest that Obama will change his course, his habits or his policies for the benefit of the nation and yet you continue to support him while offering that you might not vote for him a second time. Why not?

You seem to hold Obama in high regard, though he has done very little, while you were "disgusted" by Reagan and Clinton. Were their accomplishments "disgusting" or was it something more personal?

If lowering taxes was not helpful, you'll have to explain why Kennedy and Reagan boosted the economy when they did it. If raising taxes is a good thing, then why not raise them to say 80% or 100%? For all of us, mark. Even you have to realize that there isn't enough money amongst the "rich" to cover the current budget and the debt we've amassed, so why continue down this road of class warfare if you are not even totally on board with Obama anymore?

Greg said...

I've said this before, Betsy, and I'll say it again. Posts like these are what keep me coming back to your site.

-Greg

mark said...

tfhr,
A lecture from someone who voted for GWB, Cheney and Palin is laughable.

Cain is not a serious candidate, as has been said by many conservatives. Where were you when skay and others were calling Obama a secret muslim/marxist? That went far beyond calling anyone a fraud. You claim the Constitution is so important to you that you implore people to withhold judgement against a man despite a grand jury investigation outlining eyewitness accounts of rape and other abuse. Yet you have called Kennedy a criminal despite a lack of a confession or conviction. What happened to your respect for the Constitution? Like our troops and the American flag, you use the Constitution when it serves you, and mock it when it doesn't.
Perhaps you object to the word "fraud" because it hits so close to home.
Gee, I wonder why you're so touch about the word "fraud".

Pat Patterson said...

Calling someone a "batard" unless under Salic Law is not a description of any kind of legal status but rather an opinion. But a Grand Jury report is not proof a crime has been committed but rather the evidence presented is strong enough to bring the charges to trial.

And exactly how many indictments and convictions have been brought against the three political figures mentioned. Simply one more ad hominem when citations are never offered.

mdgiles said...

If Obama's accomplishments are so noteworthy, why doesn't he simply run on them.If they are so great why isn't he out constantly claiming credit?

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

I'm still waiting for mark to enumerate his reasons for deeming Cain as "not serious" and a "fraud". He keeps referencing other people's opinions but sadly cannot express his own with supporting information. I guess he lacks the confidence needed to tell us why Herman Cain falls short in his estimation of "serious" and of course he cannot back up his accusations of fraud.

mark,

We all get that Obama cannot run on his record. That's just the way it is but you really need to come to grips with the fact that attacking others, as you do and as Obama plans to do with his reelection strategy, is not going to change anything about the ineffectiveness of this President. Why would anyone want four more years of his failures?

mark said...

Pat,
My defense of Obama is, as I have said, limited. As I have also said, he does not deserve re-election. He is still far superior to Bush, and, I believe, superior to any of the leading repubs.
I've not seen much defense of the leading candidates here. Why not? You gonna vote for the flip-flopping architect of Obamacare, the flip-flopping lobbyist, or the fraud who said he wants to keep China from developing nuclear weapons and brags about not knowing anything about foreign policy. If I vote for Obama, it will be the proverbial "lesser of two evils". I suspect many here will feel the same way for whichever repub they cast their vote.

Pat Patterson said...

Lack of knowledge seems to keep mark happy. Romney was not the architect of the Masachusetts healthcare program as he vetoed on version and then got the legislature to moderate or drop some of the more outre provisions of the bill. But I will probably vote for the possible liar rather than the inaugurated one.

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

mark must think we're waiting for the perfect candidate, you know, like the one the Dems nominated in 2008. Yes I remember that he was the "one they were waiting for" and that Chris Matthews' leg "tingled" for Obama. He announced that with his very arrival upon the scene the oceans would recede and the Earth would cool. Obama would make the world like us again. Transparency. Jobs. No Gitmo. Blah, blah, blah.

No, we're not going to have a perfect candidate and I'm not looking for one. What might be more important is that unlike Obama, his opposition will not think of themselves as perfect and will actually face a media not engaged in making that candidate seem so to the detriment of the nation.